Regenerating our regional towns: A case study of Bairnsdale

Many of Victoria’s regional towns are experiencing a physical and economic renaissance. Ranging in size from 10-60,000 residents, places such as Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and the Latrobe Valley are capable of absorbing increased populations, they are open to new investment, and offer more choice about where to live, study and work.

At the heart of these communities is the traditional town centre which is a focus for social, economic and cultural activity. While these centres are constantly evolving, many suffer from poor pedestrian connections, lack of inviting public space, an over-reliance on the motor car and limited housing choice. These centres are often dead at night.

Focusing improvements on physical infrastructure and the public realm is not the only catalyst to regenerating these centres. Creating activity, new fine grain networks and ‘sociability’ elements are crucial for ‘living’ regional centres.

It is in this context that East Gippsland Shire Council has commissioned a masterplan to outline a strategic direction to revitalise Bairnsdale city centre which has seen limited public realm investment in recent years. Under the new plan there is an emphasis on connecting the activities and public spaces, encouraging a walkable city centre, activating the laneway network and greening Bairnsdale’s streets.

The aim is to create a mix of sunny, shaded and sheltered laneways and spaces, softened by landscaping and public artworks that encourage people to walk through and spend time in the city centre. The Council is considering a number of cost-effective methods for addressing these improvements with some key, ‘ready-to-go’ catalyst projects. This presentation will explore how good urban design principles married with effective planning policy can address physical and social improvements to create active and walkable regional cities that embrace their physical, social and cultural attributes.

Tim Biles, Director, Message Consultants will present at the

5th International Urban Design Conference – The Hilton on the Park, Melbourne, Australia from the 10th to the 12th of September – 2012

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